In an old fashioned musical, the loves and losses of an extended upper-class family in Manhattan are followed in song from NY to Paris and Venice.
The company logo comes onscreen followed closely by the white title on a black background. Seconds later we are into the first song as two young lovers walk in the park - and it's not until 100 minutes later that it lets you go again. The plot is nothing more than lots of strands of love and loss tied together by family connections. None of the stories really have any great significance but are backed up by wit and some charming song and dance numbers. This is whimsy at it's very best.
It feels like Woody Allen has really relaxed and is making films that hark back to an older age - indeed his usual style is tuned down a little to make it more accessible and more enjoyable. He has several black characters, his humour is witty but less cruel than usual and his narrative is driven by a teenage girl rather than himself. It feels so free of his usual cynicism that it adds to the weightless charm it already has. He handles the song and dance scene with such vigour and such imagination that you find yourself wondering why he hasn't done a musical before.
The superb cast all catch the charm and light feel perfectly. Not all of them are great singers but they all do well and give their best (except Barrymore who refused and was dubbed). The usual stars are complimented by plenty of well known faces - Alda, Goldie Hawn, Lucas Haas, Portman, Tim Roth, Roberts and of course the wonderful Edward Norton.
This is 100 minutes of lightweight wonder. It has no rough edges, no difficult issues, no cruel jokes and very little swearing. Only the coldest heart could fail to warm to this little charmer.
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